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Letters from Tokyo
Islam Needs to Be Challenged by True Democracy
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
Muslims pray at a mosque in Seoul.

In the distant past major democratic nations could blame the Cold War for supporting despots like Suharto in Indonesia and authoritarian nations like Saudi Arabia and a host of other nations. However, after the demise of the Cold War many people had genuine hope that a New World Order would arise from the ashes of political and ideological divisions. Therefore, democracy "in your own backyard" is no longer good enough because it leads to mass hypocrisy.

After all, is it right to lambast North Korea but remain quiet about Saudi Arabia? Let us be frank, when the President of America, Obama, visited Saudi Arabia then all his human rights credentials "were thrown out of the window." For females and non-Muslims suffer greatly in Saudi Arabia and the same applies to the minority Shia Muslim community which suffers so greatly.

So how can Obama lambast North Korea but remain silent about Saudi Arabia? From a female point of view, then women in North Korea have much more rights than they do in Saudi Arabia. Also, the vast majority of people who were responsible for September 11th were Saudi nationals, and of course not one single North Korean was involved. Yet sadly "oil politics" does get in the way and this is the problem, either you have a consistent policy or you should remain quiet.

For North Korea, unlike Saudi Arabia, is a victim of outside nations because "old" Korea was a victim of Japanese imperialism and brutality, and then global power politics helped to divide the Korean peninsula. More recently, America remains firmly entrenched in South Korea and sadly both Korea's have been victims of past outside history. However, can Saudi Arabia claim the same divisions of society on outside powers to the same extent? Obviously not, but despite this Saudi Arabia can get away with anything, including not building one single Christian church or Hindu temple to serve the migrant population.

More recently, we had President Obama making an emotional plea towards the so-called Muslim world but look at the two nations he decided to launch this fresh agenda. Yes, he went to Saudi Arabia, the land that kills all converts from Islam to Christianity and where Saudi women face severe restrictions. Then he gave his lecture in Egypt, a land where Coptic Christians suffer persecution and where the same leader governs with an "iron fist" year after year. So once more, democracy, religious liberty, equality, and so forth, is "thrown out of the window" and "democracy is on a backburner."

The "New World Order" was meant to usher in a new period whereby communism was defeated and "the march of democracy" was going to flourish. However, the "New World Order" never got started because capitalist nations still desire to trade with important nations like China and Saudi Arabia, and a host of others, which are undemocratic.

However, in China it is clear that greater freedom is happening and this nation is opening-up because commerce and trade is deemed to be more important than a rigid ideology. So the China of Mao Zedong is long gone and the current leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are very mild when compared with past leaders in the 1950s and 1960s.

Yet when we focus on mainly Muslim nations, the picture is very different because unlike China, opening up is not on the agenda when it comes to greater freedom. Yes, you have some mainly Muslim nations which are democratic, for example Indonesia, Malaysia, Senegal, and Turkey. However, in Turkey you have the Kurdish issue and marginalization of religious minorities and in Indonesia you have Christian-Muslim tensions in parts of this nation and West Papua suffers greatly.

Despite this, you have many positives within the above mentioned nations yet sadly, when we look at the "bigger picture" then it is clear that religious minorities see little in the way of "true democracy." After all, if a Muslim converts to Christianity, Buddhism, or any other faith, in Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and some other nations, then this crime is punishable by death.

Meanwhile, in nations like Bangladesh the mainly Buddhist tribals (some are Hindu or Christian) suffer enormous persecution and the same applies to Hindus within Bangladesh. In Pakistan, all minorities suffer at the hands of radical Sunni Muslim zealots and in so-called moderate nations like Egypt, it is clear that you have many anti-Christian laws when it comes to equality.

Also, thousands of women, and the numbers could be in the tens of thousands, are killed in the name of so-called honour every year. These so-called honour-killings mainly go unpunished or very light sentences are given. Therefore, it is clear that women suffer at the hands of conservative Islam and honour killings have now began to happen in Western nations by migrants who have maintained this barbaric tradition. Other non-Muslim societies are also blighted by this terrible crime against humanity, however, it is clear that in parts of the Middle East and other areas like Pakistan, that this problem is severe and for the majority of Islamic clerics they appear to be silent about this real and tragic issue.

So today we have a new leader in America who "is bending over backwards" to accommodate mainly Muslim nations. However, what about the rights of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, women, Muslim minorities, secularists, socialists, and others, who suffer in so many mainly Muslim nations? How can change happen when no constraints are put on trade or via major international institutions?

Democracy in your own nation is fine, providing you do not try to lecture other nations about the virtue of democracy and providing you state clearly that the human rights of others do not count. Yet nations like America and the United Kingdom use "democracy" to bash North Korea but remain quiet when it comes to Saudi Arabia. This dual policy is sickening and based on "power politics" and self-interests.

Given this, democracy, religious freedom, gender equality and universal rights, are being hindered so conservative Islam can keep on persecuting their respective dhimmi communities. Therefore, the House of Islam is free to spread radical Islam while at the same time Islam can persecute and kill non-Muslims or Muslim minorities in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and other nations.

Therefore, I am ashamed by democratic nations which do not give two hoots about the rights of others in distant lands. Yet, the same democratic nations will use the "democratic card" to lambast weak nations like North Korea. So clearly America, the United Kingdom, and many other democracies, only use the democratic issue when it suits them but just like radical Islam, you can not switch democracy on or off.

So why is it correct to have democratic freedoms in Western societies and gender equality in Western law, when this criterion is not applied to other nations? Is this really what democracy means in America, the United Kingdom, and other nations?

The answer at the moment to this is clearly "yes." And I am ashamed of such blatant "double standards" and surely human rights must be a universal right. What makes the situation even worse is that Western trade in nations like Saudi Arabia is vital for their economy and Western nations do have economic and political leverages at their disposal.

For example nations who welcome democracy, gender equality, religious freedom, and so on, should be brought into economic blocs and trade should be focused on these nations. In time both economic and political incentives will encourage greater democratization and this will help internal democratic movements or mere demands for greater human rights.

Of course I am not stating that this policy will work in every nation, or that it will eradicate all global problems in the world. Yet a "first step" needs to be taken and it is clear that this "step" must focus on the Islamic world in the main and other mainly non-Muslim nations like Myanmar which use persecution.

This may seem idealistic, and of course much research must be done to implement global policies with regards to economic blocs like the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement, and other important institutions, like the International Monetary Fund. Yet a policy of greater democratization needs to be implemented and a "New World Order" needs to begin.

Look at the consequences if this is not implemented. This applies to massive poverty, gender persecution, religious persecution, migration, civil wars, regional conflicts, terrorism, and countless other negative problems. Also, this upheaval does not only apply to far away lands, but to all nations, for September 11 proves that world problems are indeed great.

More important, isn't democracy hollow if it only applies to internal democracy? For why should children, women, religious minorities, and so on, continue to suffer due to Western nations "turning a blind eye?" Surely democracy and universal human rights are more important than trade? So let us hope that political leaders will understand the need to change direction.

If not, then it is essential for voices which are "crying to be heard" in nations like Saudi Arabia to be met with genuine concerns in the West and not based on an economic agenda. If this means that lay people have to call for these demands, then get writing or demonstrating. For "silence" kills and allows persecution to continue.

The world now needs a "New World Order" based on democracy, liberty, freedom, religious freedom, gender equality, and so on. For don't our fellow humans deserve equality in nations Saudi Arabia and any undemocratic nation, irrespective if they are mainly Muslim, mainly Buddhist, mainly Christian, or whatever? And isn't democracy tainted when democratic nations openly trade with Saudi Arabia and countless other despotic nations?

Therefore, it is essential that the Obama way, the way of pandering and appeasement, is challenged because the global reality in many mainly Muslim nations is one of persecution or alienation, or both. Senegal, and a few others, are rare democratic nations within the Muslim dominated bloc, therefore, true democracy needs to challenge nations like Saudi Arabia but will this ever happen?



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, He earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies in Nottingham Trent University. He also studied business at London Institute. Please check his website at http://leejaywalker.wordpress.com

 

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